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  #1  
Unread 10-14-2020, 10:19 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Lovely Hands

Lovely Hands

for my wife, though she
will never know


The sad, sad thing is they go away
the way sheep disappear on a green meadow
when you've been watching them for hours.
They're there, but in their essence
have left like a band of night singers
that present themselves to solve the issue,
whether it be which sword is gifted
or should the princess give way
to the young man who has blooded his dagger
for the privilege of her body,
and then, problem solved, slip
through the woods' threaded sheen.
The gone night singers have no solution
for the grinding of molecule to molecule
or why the sword shall crust and dull
as the sun that has lost its muscle
withers through a final grievous glow
into an explosion of great joy.
So hold them up, my love,
now wrinkled, velocity charred,
lay one across my aching shoulder,
I'll take the other in my weak hand.

Last edited by John Riley; 10-15-2020 at 04:24 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 10-16-2020, 12:56 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I love, love that first image, John, so I can't help wanting you to stay a little more faithful to it throughout the poem. Faithful to the image and the poem just being image-driven, generally. I still might tinker with that though. Watching sheep for hours? Maybe more context there? It's possible, I suppose, even without decent drugs, but I really do want to know more why. I like, too, the night singers, but what follows loses me- the sword and the princess and the shall. I'm not at all fond of that bit. So I'm guessing I'm missing a connection there with the night singers? I have no idea. My thoughts, for now.
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  #3  
Unread 10-16-2020, 04:55 PM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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This is so compellingly written, John, I just love it. Even if I am not able to paraphrase it in clear terms; or maybe, because I am not able to do so.

In L6, I think "solve the issue" is a bit awkward as a phrase, though I realize you don't want to repeat the word problem which comes later in L11's "problem solved". Howabout using problem in L6, and then in L11 saying "issue resolved"? Then the lines between L6 and L11 might need to be set apart by punctuation or something, maybe em-dashes, to preserve the obvious integrity of the grammar.

By the way, "slip / through the wood threaded sheen" gave me goosebumps, as do many of the phrasings in the poem.

My only real source of confusion is whether they and them are the same throughout the poem: "they go away" & "hold them up". But my attempts to wrestle with their identity or difference are part of what thrills me every time I read and re-read the poem. In the end I interpret every they as referring to the titular hands, that both are and are not there. Even the sword and the blooded dagger are hand-dependent in some way.

One other suggestion, at the close, perhaps rather than weak hand it might be weaker hand.

But really, John, I am in awe of this one.
It's almost unimaginable depths deepen me.
And at the same time, what a love poem!

Nemo
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  #4  
Unread 10-16-2020, 05:14 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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John, Nemo has beating me to the post. I can only heap more astonishment on his praise.

It occurs to me, reading this, and reading it over and over again, and reading it in mind of other poems of yours in recent times, that you are becoming something of a Neruda with age! A love poet. It's beautiful to witness.

The "they" and "them" to my reading are always her "lovely hands". Then there's the extraordinary extended simile which makes up the middle of the poem: ". . . like a band of night singers . . . ". What a magical touch!

The whole poem has the tensile strength of human skin.

And the tableau at the end is breathtaking.

Cally
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  #5  
Unread 10-17-2020, 05:12 AM
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Steve Bucknell Steve Bucknell is offline
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Default Wanderings

I’m glad of the dedication, which acts like a guide through the poem. It does feel like a maze of dissolving veils. There’s a sensory fading effect, as in the first image :“ the way sheep disappear on a meadow” ...a pastoral, magical, elegiacal surface, beneath which deep feelings move.

I find the “ night singers” haunting, whatever, whoever they are. And I immediately thought of Kafka’s Josephine the Singer when I heard them.

I like the fairytale, mythic aspect of the Princess and the young man. It seems to relate to memory and youth. It feels as though there are withheld meanings there.

The detail of “though the woods’ threaded sheen” is a phrase I covet.

The lines “ the grinding of molecule on molecule” seem-to bring another phase, but it’s too abstract and prosaic to my ear, compared to the hauntings and shifting veils of the rest of the poem. Prosaic may be its intended point, but it doesn’t hit that nail hard enough, for me.

It’s a moving poem, prompting a puzzled wandering. Thanks. Steve.

Last edited by Steve Bucknell; 10-17-2020 at 05:13 AM. Reason: Missing bit.
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  #6  
Unread 10-17-2020, 06:16 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Bucknell View Post
I’m glad of the dedication, which acts like a guide through the poem. It does feel like a maze of dissolving veils. There’s a sensory fading effect, as in the first image :“ the way sheep disappear on a meadow” ...a pastoral, magical, elegiacal surface, beneath which deep feelings move.

I find the “ night singers” haunting, whatever, whoever they are. And I immediately thought of Kafka’s Josephine the Singer when I heard them.

I like the fairytale, mythic aspect of the Princess and the young man. It seems to relate to memory and youth. It feels as though there are withheld meanings there.

The detail of “though the woods’ threaded sheen” is a phrase I covet.

The lines “ the grinding of molecule on molecule” seem-to bring another phase, but it’s too abstract and prosaic to my ear, compared to the hauntings and shifting veils of the rest of the poem. Prosaic may be its intended point, but it doesn’t hit that nail hard enough, for me.

It’s a moving poem, prompting a puzzled wandering. Thanks. Steve.
STEVE!!!

Great to see you here.


Now...back to the poem.
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  #7  
Unread 10-17-2020, 06:22 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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What they said. Really cool piece, John. The only offer I have from my reading is that I believe alot of things about the grip of the hands of the voice of the poem. I can believe they suffer many marks and signs of time but weak just felt wrong for such a grip as this poem swears on.
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  #8  
Unread 10-17-2020, 06:51 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
I will admit: I didn’t feel it when I first read it and didn’t come back to give it a second chance until I began to read crits. But now I’ve read it correctly, giving the words the time they need to form images, and I concur that this is a beautiful love poem.

I am bedeviled by my racing thoughts that often derail my attempts to remain in a state of contemplation that allows a full embrace of a poem that deserves, requires nothing less. This one being a case in point.

Which brings me to the broader condition that bedevils not just me as a reader of poetry, but the poet her/himself: That there is always that possibility that a reader will read a poem but not give it the time necessary to be understood, glossing over the poem's careful arrangement of words; distracted, maybe, by a busy time schedule or with something unrelated that nags and won't leave the reader alone with the poem. It is something a poet cannot change. This lifetime is not nearly long enough to absorb it all. That sounds tragic, though there's no way of knowing— Our brevity might be a ruse. We can't know. We can only believe.


Some impressions...
  • The sheep in the meadow that go away immediately made me think of clouds that do the same thing as thy murmurate and dissipate, playing tricks on the eyes... But the sheep are still there, though out of sight...
  • Though there are a smattering of slant/interior rhymes throughout, the one rhyme that rings like a bell is "dull/muscle". I really woke up when I read that couplet.
  • The sunset imagery is my favorite in the poem. It provides a multi-metaphor for the love that is lost, but not lost.
  • Velocity charred is magnificent.
  • The final four lines are cathartic. I agree with Nemo that "weaker" would be stronger : )

Thanks for opening the window to the lovely hands of what is a beautiful love poem.
.
.
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  #9  
Unread 10-17-2020, 10:59 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Albedo: Whiteness, from Latin albus; the proportion of incident radiation reflected by a surface, esp. of a planet or moon.


I ran across this word after writing this poem. Funny how it always seems to happen that way. I'm glad I didn't know it beforehand because the non-poet side of me would have wanted to make it the title. I've also seen albedo referred to as a near synonym of revery, or sitting beside a tree. I like to think of it as mindlessness, too, in the best way.

This one sat here so long without comment I actually laughed to myself and thought "speaking of sheep on a green field disappearring? It looks as though they left a turd behind." Low self-confidence has caused me to stop writing over the years. I am happy to see it has been read and read on its own terms. That is such a gift. Thanks to each.

James, I'm happy you like that opening. I wondered about repeating "sad" but I do want it to be a verbal poem and it just felt right. After that, it does wander. I would love to be able to write a poem in which the reader is swept away on the wandering. It's easier said than done, though. I very much appreciate your reading.

Nemo, thanks so much. I am very grateful you appreciate the not being able to paraphrase it. To me, poetry, and fiction, are attempts to use language to say the unsayable. At least the stuff I most appreciate is. I see that in your work. I will look at "solve the issue" and the "they & them" issues. When you have a few balls in the air the pronouns become an issue.

Cally, thank you, thank you. You know, I've never read much Neruda. He was all the rage when I was in college so I, being the cool dude, decided he wasn't for me. I have of course read individual poems of his over the years and like them. I think I will turn to him and Lorca, who I have also neglected for the same reason. I am so happy you like this and feel it--"tensible strength of human skin" is perfect! It verbalizes what I didn't know how to say.

Steve, thanks for reading and commenting. I'm so glad you thought of Josephine. That is an underrated story of Kafka's. I love it. I wanted "molecule to molecule" to contrast with the poem but it may do it in such a way that is overly distracting. I'll look at it. That's hard to get right.

Andrew, thanks. The ending, the weak hand, was hard. I will look it over. I have so much going on here and I wanted to bring it back to me and her--molecule to molecule.

Jim, I appreciate what you say about the difficulty of focusing on a poem like this. How your thoughts interfere. I have that issue in abundance. For years I was was on meds for it and then the meds turned on me and almost killed me. Today I have meditation which I do everyday. I'm so committed to it that now I can the next wave of depression when it first darkens the horizon and can move to alleviate it more quickly than before. Still can't stop it but meditation helps me survive. I strongly recommend it. You don't have to follow any specific practice. I'm an adherent of Plum Village and their free app has great meditation help on it but there are others. In many ways this poem is possible because I meditate so I guess it makes sense meditation would make it easier to read. What you say about a poem finding readers willing to engage in it is what we are all up against, isn't it? Who knows, poetry may not be here for the rest of human existence, or novels and stories. Minds may become less and less capable of touching it. Who knows? But still, we write.

Thanks everyone.

Best
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  #10  
Unread 10-18-2020, 04:55 PM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
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Default Lovely Hands

John:

The camradery of sound and image is sustained beautifully throughtout the poem.
The first and last sentences serve as bookends to an entrance and not an exit but a re-introduction to the love being presented here.

It is lines 4 through 18 that even in their heroic attempt to maintain the beauty begin, for me, to depart from sense.
As they take us throught their definition of the essence of the 'absence' of her hands
from 'night singers' to the 'sword' and 'dagger'
to the connection between the issue/solution of grinding 'molecules',
links are being made that I have a hard time maintainng.
However, the sun losing it's muscle, withering into an 'explositon of great joy' was a spectacular recovery of sense for me.

You mentioned earllier a quality you called 'lostness'.
A quality music has of moving on without us yet at the same time of waiting for us to recover our 'sense' of what has gone before.
Maybe that is what you are trying to do here.
We have all heard from almost the beginning how poetry should aspire to music.
I could never quite accept the veracity of that proposal.
The sound/sense barrier is seamless in music, in language it seems more of a severe case of wishful thinking.

Bill
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